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Church  History


We exist to know Christ and to make him known, to worship God


The Story of First ARP Church of Statesville-Our Past and Our Future





The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church as we know it today comes to us across
a lengthy history of service in two lands, the British Isles and North America. It had its
beginnings in the preaching of John Knox in Scotland when the Scottish Church became the
official church of Scotland in 1560 A.D. As always the case when the church and state become
too closely allied, controversy and bitter strife over control became a way of life for church and
state alike.

Things improved somewhat under King William III in 1688 A.D. as he reorganized the
Church of Scotland into the Established Presbyterian Church of Scotland. In spite of the
improvement, however, a great number of problems still existed, and in 1733 a pastor by the
name of Ebenezer Erskine led a group of Christians in forming a separate Associate
Presbytery (from thence comes the first part of our name). Ten years later, another group of
Christians who for years had suffered problems with the established church organized
themselves into the Reformed Presbytery.

Both churches spread to Northern Ireland as the Scots were forced to emigrate and
both came to America with those “Scots-Irish” folks. The immigrants came to the Pennsylvania
area at first, and it was there that both the Associate and the Reformed Presbyteries of
Pennsylvania were organized in the 1750-1770 time period.

It was a heady time in the new world, and all the “old alliances” were being called into
question. The new America was emerging and at the same time our forefathers were seeking
to create a new church as well. Formal union talks between the “Associates” and the
“Reformed” began in 1777 and by 1782 the Associate Reformed Synod came to be in
Philadelphia. This Synod, even though all “Associates” and “Reformeds” did not join, included
churches in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, North and South Carolina and Georgia.
Eight years later, the Associate Reformed Presbytery of the Carolinas and Georgia was
formed in Abbeville County, S.C., followed some twenty years later (1803) by the division of
the entire church into four Synods and one General Synod. The Synods were those of the
Carolinas, Pennsylvania, New York and Scioto with the headquarters of the church in
Philadelphia. In 1822 the Synod of the Carolinas was granted separate status, and by the end
of the century was the sole remaining body of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church as
several mergers over the years had absorbed the rest of the denomination into the old United
Presbyterian Church. The remaining “A.R.P.s” in the Southeast continued on as the
denomination we have today.
Revised Nov.16, 2




Organized on August 7, 1869
• Founding elders: R.R. White, A.M. Walker, George White, and John Patterson
• First pastor: the Reverend W. B. Pressly. Reverend Pressly served as pastor until his
death on November 25, 1883
• Our women’s organization, now known as the Women’s Ministry, has been a vital asset
of our Church since 1878 when Mrs. W. B. Pressly, wife of the first minister, organized
the Ladies Aid Society. This organization was later named the Women of the Church
and now the Women’s Ministries. Three Circles meet monthly for Bible Study and to
review and receive information concerning denominational issues and projects.
Quarterly meetings are held for the entire Women’s Ministry membership. Women’s
Ministries has a program of visitation of the shut-ins of the Church. Women’s Ministries
prepares food for bereaved families, and provides food for congregational meals and
receptions as well as for occasional Presbytery, Elders and Deacons meetings.
• The newly organized First A.R.P Church met in the courthouse temporarily and then
met at the Presbyterian Church for six years.
• Grounds for a sanctuary were donated by Col. J.S. Miller. In 1874 construction of a
sanctuary at its present location on East Broad Street began. That building was
destroyed by a cyclone on June 10, 1899. In 1900 a new sanctuary was built on that
site and in 1923 a new Sunday School building was added.
• The generosity of Statesville’s Jewish congregation following the destructive 1899
cyclone was remarkable. The Jewish congregation invited our Christian congregation to
preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Jewish Temple. After the generous offer, there
was no discussion regarding our congregation paying rent or even reimbursing for
utilities. The offer was “. . . just come and use our facility while your new building is
being built. We worship on different days of the week.” When the new church was
finished and our congregation moved in, it occurred to someone in our congregation
that we needed to send the Jewish congregation a check for rental and utilities. That
was done with an invitation for representatives of the Jewish congregation to attend one
of the first services in our new sanctuary. A delegation came to help our congregation
celebrate the new church. They brought back the check uncashed with the wish that
those funds be used to pay on the church’s mortgage. Source: The 8/9/69 Statesville Record &
• Several ministers supplied the pulpit for brief periods and then in 1885 the Reverend D.
G. Caldwell became pastor and served until 1891

Our church sent 150 young men and women into World War II. Every
one of them did a soldier’s duty. Three of them, Lee Roy Smith, Trent Brady,
and G. Gales White were “Faithful unto death.”


• Throughout its history, First A.R.P. Church has benefited greatly from the excellent
service of many ministers, assistant and associate ministers, student pastors, Directors
of Christian Education, choir directors and organists.
• In 1892 the Reverend J.H. Pressly, a student at Erskine Seminary, became the pastor
and served for fifty-four years. Dr. Pressly resigned in 1946. During Dr. Pressly’s
ministry the Church and the denomination both saw significant growth: In 1897 the
Church manse was built. In 1902 the Session approved establishing a second church
in South Statesville. The church, known as Pressly Memorial, was built in 1907.
Anecdote about Dr. Pressly from the July 27, 1893 Landmark (predecessor of the
Statesville Record & Landmark newspaper): “The Associate Reformed Presbyterian
congregation have granted their pastor, Rev. J. H. Pressly, a month’s vacation and he
left last week to visit relatives in South Carolina. He will visit Chicago and take in the
World’s Fair before he returns to Statesville.” Source: “Out of Our Past” section of the July 23, 2018
issue of the Statesville Record & Landmark. History articles are written weekly by local historian, Bill Moose.
• Our church grew remarkably in size during its early years. A 1940 church bulletin
reports that the church membership in 1892 was 50 and the Sunday School enrollment
was 40. By 1940 church membership was 750 and Sunday School enrollment was 418.
• In December 1945 our church honored those who had served in World War II by
presenting Bibles to them. Each Bible contained the following message inside the

We are proud of you. We have your records fully written in the history of this church, a chapter of glory. We shall never forget you.That you may never forget us in the years to come, we are placing in your hands this Bible, a guide, God-given, to that Home where all is peace.James H. Pressly, Pastor Russell M. Kerr, Associate PastorE. Morrison, Jr., Clerk of Session.

December 15, 1945

In a letter written to a soldier, the writer reported that Lee Roy Smith was
buried in France; Trent Brady, in Okinawa; and G. Gales White, in

Bronze Plaques in the Church’s narthex commemorate Lee Roy Smith,
Trent Brady, G. Gales White, Robert Bruce King, (World War
I) and Robert R. Cashion (Korean War).


• The Reverend H. L. Patrick served the Church as pastor 1946 - 1950.

• In 1950 the Reverend Dr. Robert Marshburn became the pastor. During the years
when Dr. Marshburn was the pastor, Covenant A.R.P. was formed out of our

• Following World War II, the congregation had decided their sanctuary, built in 1900,
was not adequate to meet the needs of their post-war ministry. On March 26, 1950 the
congregation voted to erect a new building on the site of their 1900 sanctuary. The
Session elected a Building Committee comprised of J. L. Pressley, Sam Gaither
(subsequently elected Chairman), John Kimmons, Julian White, Mrs. Clyde Walker,
K. L. Raymer, and T. O. Morrison. In October 1950, the congregation voted to proceed
with remodeling the 1900 sanctuary; however, in the following months the congregation
gradually realized that a renovation and expansion program for the 1900 sanctuary was
impractical and the program was abandoned.

• Three years later, in September 1953, the congregation elected a Building
Commission: Hubert Brown, R. C. Bryson (Chairman), J. R. Cashion, Frank Deaton,
Sam Gaither, Plummer Jones, Bob Kestler, V. E. Lackey, D.L. Pressley, Wesley Shell,
C. W. Washington, and Julian White. On December 17, 1954 a contract was signed
with Design Associates, Andrew L. Pendleton, Architect, to build a new sanctuary on
the lot of the 1900 sanctuary at 123 East Broad Street.

• Our current sanctuary was designed and built to seat 675 to accommodate the
membership. The new construction included a fellowship hall underneath the
sanctuary. In September 1956, construction contracts totaling $255,242 were
awarded. Construction was completed early in 1958 and the first service in the new
sanctuary was held March 16, 1958. The total project cost for the sanctuary,
fellowship hall and furnishings was $288.034.68. Loans totaling $135,000 to complete
the construction were ultimately paid in full in March 1966.

• Dr. Marshburn served as pastor of First A.R.P. until 1969.

• In 1970 the Reverend Dr. Richard B. Leaptrott began his pastorate and served until
late 1985.

• In 1974 a new Educational Building was added to the sanctuary to accommodate the
large enrollment for Sunday School.

• In 1986 the Reverend Bob E. DeWitt became pastor and served until 1994.

• The Statesville Korean Church used our Chapel for its services 1994 -1999.

• The Reverend Robert E. Sherer served as interim pastor from March 1994 until
February 1995. Reverend Sherer served as Minister of Congregational Care from
June 1995 through February 2011, and again served as interim pastor from March
2011 until June 2012. After his retirement, the Chapel was renamed “Sherer Chapel”
to honor Reverend Sherer for his devoted service to our congregation.

• In 1995 the Reverend Dr. Charles Steele became pastor and served until retiring in
April 2011.

• In 2012 the Reverend Phillip R. McCoy became pastor and served until May of 2022.

• Our church has a rich heritage of music. Music of the old masters, Psalms of the
early A.R.P. denomination, as well as new music are featured during worship services. 

The music program has been very ably led in the past fifty years by several excellent choir directors in succession:

Violet Morrison, J.D. Morrison, Dan Pardue, and Charlotte Clontz, who retired in 2021. In July of 2021 Leslie Overcash, a son of this congregation, and a student of both Dan and Charlotte, became our Director of Music Ministries. At this same time, his wife, Amanda Watts Overcash became our Organist. 


• World Witness is the foreign missions agency of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian
denomination. Since 1875, the A.R.P. denomination has sent missionaries to Mexico
and Pakistan. Buford L. Hamilton and his wife, Frances. The Hamiltons’ son and
daughter-in-law, B. L. Hamilton, Jr., M.D. and Dorothy Bell Hamilton, served as
missionaries in Pakistan for many years. Currently A.R.P. fields include Chile, Eastern
Europe, Germany, Latin America, Lithuania, Mexico, Middle East, Pakistan, Persian
Ministry, Scotland, Spain, Turkey, and the Ukraine. A primary focus is the Muslim
world: a Christian hospital in Sahiwal, Pakistan, reaches 40,000 Muslims annually, and
Christian schools in Pakistan, educate 500 students annually. An Iranian satellite TV
ministry is planting dozens of house churches.

• In addition to the Hamilton family, through the years our church has also sent out
several other members to spread the Gospel: James Walker, Lynn Kunkle,
Steve Sellers, the Reverend Fred Archer, the Reverend John Kimmons, the Reverend
William Pressly, and the Reverend Henry Pressly,

• The First A.R.P. Foundation, now known as the Agape Fund was established in the
1980s, with a sizeable contribution from the estate of a long-time member of the
Church. The purpose of the Agape Fund is to provide financial assistance to meet
physical or spiritual needs, in accordance with the mission and ministry of First A.R.P.
Church, in our Church, community and the Associate Reformed Presbyterian
denomination. Requests for funds are made in writing and are submitted to the Agape
Fund Board. All distributions shall pass two tests: the requests must meet human need
and bear witness to the glory of Jesus Christ in keeping with the mission of First A.R.P.
Church, “To Know Christ and Make Him Known.”

• There has been a Boy Scout troop sponsored by our Church almost continually since
1944. At that time Mr. John Lewis, a member of our church, gave land on Davie
Avenue to be used by Scouts as well as for general Church activities. The building on
the property is known as the “Scout Hut.” In 1980 Payton Morrison formed Boy Scout
Troop 609 which continues to meet at the Scout Hut. It was chartered and continues
today to serve the community, participating in numerous service projects, Troop
outings, Scout Camp and Jamborees. The current Scout Master of Troop 609 in Jim
Mixson. The Scout Hunt has been used for day camps by youth of our Church and also
is frequently the site of congregational meals. Our Church welcomes local civic
organizations such as Rainbow Kids (a resource offered by Gordon Hospice House) to
use the Scout Hut for events.
Revised Nov.16, 2018 Page 5 of 9

• In 1993 our church, in cooperation with Habitat for Humanity, built and paid for a house
for a single-parent mother with three children. This four-month project involved the
entire congregation which provided carpenters, painters, decorators and all other
needed support positions for construction of the house.

• The Women’s Ministries regularly collects food and personal-care items which are then
donated to local human services agencies to assist them in serving their many clients.

• Every year our Church participates in two events sponsored by the Downtown
Development Corporation: “Downtown Trick or Treat” on Halloween when Church
members distribute candy and Church information to children as they walk in front of
the Church, and the “Holiday Shop and Stroll” during the Christmas season by
presenting a “Live Nativity” and Christmas carols on the Church’s front lawn.


Reminiscence by the Reverend John Kimmons:
When I was fifteen, Danny Waugh, Billy Deal, and I were laying out of church by hiding
in the chair room downstairs behind the stage. As the service would start we would slip out to
the back door of the drugstore next door and have a lemonade and some crackers and return
just as the church was letting out. Gene Hines, one of our Scout leaders, was putting chairs
back in the room and caught the three of us hiding there. He grabbed me by the back of the
neck with a strong hand and said “You don’t want me to tell your Dad do you.” I immediately
replied “no sir.” He then asked us if we would ever do this again and we said no. And we
didn’t. Gene never mentioned it to my father and my father did not bring justice because Gene
Hines showed grace. I will never forget it.
Joy Little was in our Church youth group that used to descend upon our house on
Sunday night and eat up all our food. Something happened in Joy’s home and she came to
live with us. She ended up teaching children in inner city New York and we went to visit her.
Her Christian witness influenced my life greatly as I saw her dedication to serving others. She
married Salvador Vischio and to this day their family is my family. First A.R.P. Church built
strong bonds among its members. Mr. Sam Gaither gave me my first job. Peyton Morrison
taught me how to sell shirts for Sid Sample. At thirteen Mr. Sellers drafted me into the adult
choir and later I sang with the Choraleers at Erskine. The men of our church set an example of
service by teaching me to cook, clean, camp, fish, hunt, tie knots, swim, build fires, build
bridges, and become an Eagle Scout. I thank God that our church provided the Scout Hut
and many wonderful experiences that kept me out of trouble.

Reminiscence by Sarah Stilwell Cooper-Butler
Well we could go on and on couldn’t we but some things we will NOT share. Mostly I
remember the living Christian environment when we were little. There was Mrs. Bost and
Young Juniors. Not only did we learn “memory verses “ and have “sword drills” but we got
these little watermelon-looking sugar candies that I only saw at church. Now I see them at
Mast General Store but what a treat then. There was Bible School and many lessons and play
time where I feared hearing “Red Rover, Red Rover send Sarah Ann right over!” I was
terrified I would be knocked down by all those strong boys.
I loved singing in the Junior Choir and later the Adult Choir. Miss Joy was so good to
us. She always said her name meant: “Jesus first ,Others second, and Yourself last!” One
Sunday night we were singing in the choir in the old church. Oh I was so proud. We had on
our little robes. After the song, we left the loft to sit with our parents. My robe, that I wore so

proudly, caught on a chair and dragged the chair out into the congregation. Oh what shame!!
Revised Nov.16, 2018 Page 6 of 9

There were retreats at Bonclarken where we loved the Old Bible Songs and swimming
in the lake. I remember standing outside the Old Hotel waiting for meals singing, “Here we
stand like flies in the sugar bowl waiting to be fed!”
But the fun really began in high school. Our “crowd” stayed close even at school. Our
YPCU (Young Peoples Christian Union) was where we learned to behave as teenagers. Ms.
Jane Miller was such a loving inspiration to us. Then after our meetings, we piled into cars
and rode out to JCs or the Rotunda for hamburgers. Most evenings we ended up at
someone’s house where there was a piano. I was so proud when it was my home. Those of
us who played did play a little but we were ever entertained by Billy Deal playing Heart and
Soul and we sang many songs to that tune!
One year, Judy Kernes and I were singing at a Sunrise Service. Of course it was early
so I was ready when she pulled up in the driveway. She accidentally touched the horn which
was only audible enough to wake my next door neighbor. He threatened to fight my gentle
Daddy and go after Dr. Kernes. He did neither but the loyal YPCU friends decided to address
the issue themselves. They got together and decided to ride by the next night in tandem
blowing horns as they passed by. The neighbor then called the cops but someone (I do not
know who) got the cop who had stopped in front of my house and told him the story. The cop
laughed, turned on his siren and circled Oakhurst Road in front of my house about three
times! He reported the incident and the neighbor was told that the noise would stop but that
he should realize that kids will be kids! Now that is Christian Love in action!!

Reminiscence by Joy Little Vischio
As the old song goes " The church is not a building - the church is the people." What
fun I have had these past few days looking back in my memory bank, remembering my life as
a young person at the First A.R.P. Church!
First A.R.P. was my family. Coming from a dysfunctional, single-parent home, I was
blessed to be taken in by such a caring congregation. It all started when I was in second
grade with my teacher, Mrs. Deaton, who was the organist at the A.R.P. Church. Every
Monday she would ask "How many of you went to church yesterday?" The hands were raised
with great pride. One Monday I went home and told my hardworking mom that I wanted to go
to church so I could raise my hand when the question would surely be asked again. Her
reply, “But, Joy, they really dress up at Mrs. Deaton's church!" She saw how much I really
wanted to go so I could raise my hand. Since she was a great seamstress, as that's how she
made extra money to feed her five children, she said she would make me a dress. It had a
big bow in the back. How proud I was when Monday came. I raised my hand and that was
the beginning of my new family.
The Kimmons, the Jenkins, the Hines and others would take me home each Sunday
after church. Mom would drop me off. I felt the love of my new family immediately. Soon I
came to know the love Christ has for me. I loved memorizing Bible verses which to this day I
treasure. I remember our much-loved DCE, Mabel Hamilton (McGill) giving me my first book,
Men Called Him Master which I still have today with Mabel's own writing of my
accomplishments in learning scripture. I loved, loved Mabel
and was so sad when she announced she was getting married. I cried but she promised
another DCE would come and she did - Harriet Edwards.
I felt the love of yet another DCE. I thought Harriet loved me so much that when I was
dared by my friends on the bus, coming home from a Bonclarken Retreat, to throw one of my
shoes out the bus window. I just knew Harriet would ask the bus driver to stop. Well, she
didn't and I was minus a shoe and lesson learned - tough love!
Bonclarken was a highlight in my youth! One year mom didn't have the small cost for
my going to the Bonclarken Conference so Harriet came up with the idea of my ironing her
clothes for the trip and she would pay me! To this day I think of Harriet each time I iron a shirt.

She showed me the steps for a crispy, clean, ironed shirt!
YPCU was my social life. Sunday I helped in the nursery class because the "3 unholy
terrors," being Mary Love Pressly, Nancy Jenkins and me, didn't behave too well in church. I
did anything for attention, positive or negative.
Then there were the saints, headed by Pearl Mundhenke from the Women's Society.
They would come each Sunday at 6:00 to serve us sandwiches and dessert after Junior Choir
practice at 5:00 and before YPCU or Intermediates. "Feed them and they will come!" I loved
singing "Break Thou the Bread of Life" before we could eat. They were such a devoted group
of women.
John and Nancy Kimmons were our adult advisors and I marvel now at the time and
love they gave to us! After YPCU they invited us back to their Park Street home where we
once again devoured all of their food. (I am sure Johnny, Kimmy, Bill, and Dick— their kids,
were not too happy.)
After my mom died at age 49 from a blood clot following surgery, the Kimmons’ and the
Marshburns' homes became my homes. Gladys and Bob Marshburn were blessed with many
children and I spent countless weeks helping them with Margaret (Patti), Barbara, Danny,
Paul and little Ruth. How blessed I was to learn first hand how to care for a newborn from
Gladys. The Kimmons and the Marshburns continued to be a part of my life until they were
called to be with the Lord. How I thank God for each of them and their children. What a great
influence they had on my life! Fortunately we have kept in touch and they all have visited my
family and me in New York and Connecticut. Johnny and Kimmy Kimmons Trivett still pray
daily for me as did their parents.
There is no A.R.P. church here in Connecticut but I belong to yet another church family
- only just Presbyterian. I have shared the love of Christ in song and Bible studies that I
learned in my youth at the First A.R.P. Church with the kids here. I have heartfelt gratitude
for my formative years there. I still miss singing the Psalms - my favorite being page 188,
"Under His Wings." I can still hear the men singing the bass part of "Lo, Children are God's
My dear husband died three months ago from the dreadful disease of Alzheimer's after
fifty-five years of marriage; however, I have two beautiful daughters whose love increases
beyond measure for me. And yes, I remember the Bible verses learned so many years ago at
the First A.R.P. Church - "Trust in the Lord with all your heart..." I am eighty-two now and
cannot believe I can recall these memories so vividly! Thanks be to God!


Thomas Henry "Tom" Marshburn, M.D., Statesville native and a son of our sixth
minister, the Reverend Dr. Robert J. Marshburn, is a National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA) astronaut and a physician. Dr. Marshburn lived in Statesville from birth
until 1969, when his family moved to Atlanta. Dr. Marshburn completed his first spaceflight in
July 2009, logging more than 376 hours in space, and 18 hours and 59 m inutes in three
spacewalks. He launched to the International Space Station as a Flight Engineer in December
2012. While onboard the station, he logged more than 146 days in space and 5 hours and 30
minutes of spacewalk time.
Supplementary source for NASA information: Wikipedia


In addition to the reminiscences featured above, other current and former members
likely have memories of other people who served in this church and had a profound spiritual
influence on lives of other members. First A.R.P. Church celebrated its 150th
anniversary in 2019, it is especially important to remember and be thankful for the many
people who grew up in this church and then went out into the world in service to God:
missionaries, preachers, teachers. In overseeing the perpetual maintenance of this History,
the Session (Elders) and the Diaconate (Deacons) would like to be aware of additional stories
for possible inclusion. If you have stories you would like to add to this History, please give
your stories to a currently-serving Elder or Deacon for consideration.


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